Opa-locka rejected the City Manager’s recommendation to hire Intercounty Engineering for their Cairo Lane improvement project after taking issue with the selection process.
“What should have happened, based on prior resolutions and the city charter, after the selection committee made its recommendation, it should have come to the Commission first and then to Tallahassee,” said City Attorney Vincent Brown.
Instead, City Manager Kelvin Baker sent the committee’s final selection north to get an extra set of eyes of the chosen contract before revealing it to the Commission.
“Nothing inappropriate took place in this process, no funds have been committed,” Baker said. “The purpose of their process is the look the entire process to ensure that we followed it. Had we not followed it, it would not have been approved.”
Mayor Myra Taylor, however, said what he did was a big “no no.”
In a special meeting on Wednesday morning, the Commission unanimously approved restarting the bidding process for Cairo Lane, Opa-locka’s largest, most comprehensive project to fix flooding, potholes and wastewater issues. Cairo Lane does not have drainage or a sewer on the street and is prone to heavy flooding during the rainy season.
“It’s been dangerous for quite a long time. Every year it gets worse,” said Daniel Landman, owner of Minton Parts on Cairo Lane. “We really need this project to go through.”
Other property owners and residents from the area chimed in and echoed a similar sentiment.
“We want this construction to move on rapidly, but moreover to be an honest, transparent and legal matter,” said Maria Morgan, owner of Asap Car Recycling. “You have been elected and you need to look out for our best interest. Time is passing, do it the correct way.”
The state awarded the city a $40 million revolving loan to fix problem areas like Cairo Lane last year. It’s one of the city’s industrial sections home to salvage yards and some large potholes that have been only been temporarily fixed. The area was also cited as a Brownsfield, a property with the presence or potential presence of a hazardous contaminant, in 1999.
Last Wednesday, Baker brought the resolution to award Intercounty Engineering’s bid the project for a vote. But the Commission did not have an opportunity to review all three bids prior to the regular meeting.
The three bids had been evaluated on criteria that was set by a select group of engineers and building professionals overseen by Baker.
His final recommendation was approved by the state before it came to the Commission for a final vote. Commissioner Luis Santiago asked to put the project on hold until the commission could properly vet the decision.
On Wednesday, Baker reaffirmed that he followed the process that both the state and the city asked of him. He also explained the Opa-locka’s troubled past with federal funding required the state take a bigger role in deciding how to spend the money.
“We provided to them drafts of our purchasing procedures, our bidding process, and they took a look at it and told us what would be required in the event that we were successful at getting approval to utilize state revolving funds,” Baker said.
He pointed out that the lowest bidder did not add the required $300,000 contingency to cover unknown costs that might arrive during construction for the process.
Mayor Myra Taylor shared concerns about the vast difference in bid package prices, how the selection panel was derived from one department and the commission’s failure the review the recommendation before it was sent to the state, among other things.
“I want to get the best deal for our residents and our taxpayers,” she said. “Secondly — more importantly — is to make sure that the process has integrity. I would never interfere with day to day operations or the staff, but it is my job to oversee when it comes in front of me.”
She directed the manager to rebid this process with the concerns of the mayor and commission.
“I’m not going to consider awarding the bid to no non-recommended company because I don’t want to risk losing this money,” Taylor said.
The Commission will have to develop a new process that the state will have to approve before another bid selection can start. Once a vendor is selected, the state will also have to authorize the pick before construction can begin.